Short Story: Waves of a Raging Sea

She lived in the deadliest of times.

When they first started appearing, she was intrigued. There was much to see, colors and odd shapes, in the gifts from the world above. Some were familiar, they looked like the sea jellies she loved, but they were flimsy and dead. There was no life in them, and no light.

She wasn’t meant to scavenge like a brute, or delve into the unknown. She was the king’s daughter. He’d named her Celo after her kind, and then called her strong and hard-cut and insufferable as she grew older. She had let herself be chiseled by the horrors of the sea, when her allies were drawn out of the water in tons and left to suffocate in open air. She witnessed it, and felt herself come apart when the whales hunted, and the sharks’ fins were cut clean off. She witnessed because she believed that she had to learn, in helplessness, the way of the sea to defy it.

But after a while, she didn’t have to scavenge. The trinkets found their way uninvited to the monuments and the corals she called home. Her father sat on his throne there, growing gradually more irritated by what the world above gave them, but still holding peace. She watched as the older ones broke into pieces over the years, and the newer ones clustered into whirring masses that blocked the sun and filtered its light into colorful, malignant rays.

She began twisting the small, thin lines from the tails of seahorses when she went on her forbidden trips to the surface, and ripped apart the threads that entangled turtles. She pulled sacks out of dead bodies, and many specks came along with them. Her home was being suffocated and sunk, and she wouldn’t float there and let it.

She let her anger burn with heat and acid, because it wasn’t the order of the sea that she had to stop. She learned that the humans sent the trinkets, and they drew her friends out to bleed and die, and they cut their fins and sent them back to sink. She saw them. It wasn’t the order of the sea that she had to overthrow; it was the two-legged beasts.

“Father,” she said, her hands curled into fists.

“Do not defy me,” he commanded. He’d known what she came for. His deep-set voice had always been a comfort, but the entire ocean was falling apart around them. There was no comfort to be found in that, none to be sought. “The sea will find way back to her order.”

There wasn’t a companion in the sea who would defy the King of it all, even when he held a naive conviction. She needed an enemy, so she found her way to the very depths, to the most sinister glow the sea held.

The Sea Witch was a siren, and the most beautiful the oceans had seen. In her lived a piece of the soul of the man she once loved. She was an Angler, after all, doomed to dissolve and consume. She held a grudge against males, and human males in particular. Her love was one, and legend has it she’d sung to him and he was lured. Her fate caught him running as soon as she’d declared him hers, and he vanished into the salt of the sea, leaving none behind but a piece that she held in her heart.

“Why,” she said, in a voice subdued, “if it isn’t the King’s daughter.”

And she hated the Sea King because he’d shunned her from his kingdom. Her hair held silver light, and it lured like her voice. It curled and flowed around Celo threatening, but how else would she treat the daughter of her foe?

“Give me legs.”

“Oh?” The Sea Witch said, amused, and tucked her palms beneath Celo’s jaw. “And so easily?”

“You will get whatever you ask for in return.”

 


 

And on feet that strode on shards of glass, she walked to the human world.

They were resting beneath the sun when she did, and no one took a single glance her way when she crawled out and toppled to her side. She was aching and tired, and her body wasn’t hers anymore. And the sun was so warm and bright it was almost personally provoking her.

“You alright?”

He blocked the angry rays, and her eyes had to readjust to see his features as he knelt overhead. He helped her to her new feet, then and into his world. In a sense, he was helping hers too. The little trinkets laced the shore, and he had been picking them up.

Time passed and he taught her how to live. “These are plastics,” he told her, and he was genuine enough to find it amusing. “You’re like an alien,” he’d said with a chuckle. “How did you not know that?”

His face was framed with an air of innocence, an endearing child-like quality and a complete contrast to the world above the oceans. He told her about plastics and oil spills and whaling and shark-fin soup and how much he condemned all of them. He said that their factories send dark, toxic air upwards, and the ocean swallows it out of courtesy, and that he wanted it all to stop.

She let herself witness the order of earth like she did the sea before that. It bustled with noise and joy and carnage, and it was beautiful beyond words, with its trees growing thick and long, and their canopies intertwining for shade, and its animals treading dry soil and flying its skies.

But the humans refused to budge. They built and they rampaged, and drank out of plastic. Their killing wasn’t limited to the sea, she learned, because they killed one another and the land above. They did it with no conscious, and they proved undeserving of the gifts that the sea gave them.

Her voice was muffled and suffocated and sunk, like the lives in her home, no matter the signs, no matter the time that passed. Her time was counted against her, and the shards beneath her feet became unbearable. The sea was calling for her, tracing shores with death; whales and turtles she could’ve saved if she remained under water. She’d failed it. Her kind belongs in the ocean, and even the severest desire to fix what the past had wrecked wouldn’t change that.

Her resentment grew for all but one man who under the sun told her that he loved the ocean.

So she took him to the shore of the place he loved and protected so fiercely.

Futile.  

It was ugly, and it was angry, that plunge of the knife and the splutter that followed. Humans were terribly warm, and his blood covered her like an inhale, and she felt the tightness in her stomach ease when she did it. “The oceans love you too,” she whispered, her eyes brimming with brine and more honesty in her wavering voice that she’d ever mustered.

“Bring me a human heart,” the Sea Witch had said, and without words, had asked for the destruction that came with it. “It’s a measly price. I’m giving you two gifts, after all.”

Before too long, he’d bled enough, and in despair, became still beneath her. It brought the thought of the sharks that had sunk. He was past the point of no return, as was the ocean.

His insides steamed and convulsed when she reached into his flesh, bones and blood intervening, and tissues cradling tight the organ she pulled. “I don’t want you to see it,” she told him. “The ocean we couldn’t save.”

It wasn’t at all a clean cut. It was vicious and furious and she couldn’t contain it, and, oh, it wasn’t him; it wasn’t him who destroyed our seas. But the order is only impartial, and humans shall bear it.

She held his heart to the sky, and it was slick with mercury. That dragged a giggle out of her, because did Mercury not guide the souls to the underworld? But then she held that heart to her own; it remained precious, and that was the Sea Witch’s second gift.

“I will plant in you the love for one human. It is his heart I want.”

His body was still tremulous and quivering, and she wondered just how broken it was, for his nerves to be protesting even after she’d cut him open and left him to bleed.

She felt the warmth dragging down to her elbows. Then she dropped the heart aside, and her gaze to the mutilated body under her. His blood burned and branded her as it flowed, it was toxic and lethal, and it tore her because he wasn’t that. It smelled of lead and mercury and the black liquid they spill into the sea. And in the gaping hole where his heart had been, she found the lungs that bore the scent of the black clouds that the oceans swallowed.

She reached for the knife and dragged it against his stomach again. From it spilled a million specks of plastics in cheerful disarray. They had found their way back into him, and were the color of fury and destruction and the sea, and they continued gushing between her fingers like the ocean itself, like a nightmare that wouldn’t end.

Come the waves and she left along with the ebb, her laughter trailing behind her and a marred heart in her hands. There was pleasant news for the Sea Witch; she didn’t have to plot the destruction of the human race.

They are doing well enough on their own.

 


 

Writer’s note:

There are many little things I hid in this, and I’d love for you guys to tell me what you found. I’ll be posting an explanation soon ❤ happy reading

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Short Story: The Greatest Show

“It’s not right,” she tells the Ringmaster, a fire in her eyes evident even to me. I saw it once before, in the eyes of my own kind, when my mother and I were taken. “What we’re doing is not right.”

She’s in a little dress that shines, and she’s a fierce one. The expression that she wears when the masses arrive is nowhere to be seen. There is fire in her eyes, and it only grows hotter when the Ringmaster gives her his back, and, led by his belly, leaves the tent.

I think people see more colors than we do. I cannot imagine more colors, though. But does it enthrall them the same way our obedience does? Is that why we’re ornamented when the masses circle us, with rags on our backs and jewels atop our heads? Their noise is overwhelming, always, and their flashing lights are, too.

Oh, but I know better than to defy the keeper. See, my mother did that when I was hurt into discipline; she was later hung by a rope. I didn’t know what that meant, but then she never moved again, and it didn’t matter how much I called for her to.

So now I know that when I’m told to stand on a raised piece that can’t carry my four feet, I should stand on two. I know that fighting for the family I left in a wide grassland far away will only lead me to a noose.

I don’t fight. But she does, the human in the little dress that shines. She tries to convince the Ringmaster, then she tries to convince the other humans. I hear her voice become loud against our keeper, and I know she is fighting for us. She’s a fierce one.

But she fails, and curls on the dirt under the sky by our side. I don’t understand it, because the show is over, and she should be inside, sleeping with other humans. But I touch her head, once. She looks up, and there’s no fire in her eyes anymore.

She rises, and maybe I upset her, but I don’t feel that. She stomps away, and I consider the noose. Would it really be so bad? But no, I trust her. She fights for me.

She runs back after, and the expression she wears for the masses is back on again. But it’s genuine now, a “smile.” Human affection is an odd thing, but I still understand it. She holds her body close to my trunk for a moment, and I feel a fast and steady thump. “It’s going to be all right now,” she tells me. “You’ll be set free.”

Farther away, I see it. The fire in her eyes found its way to our world, and it is growing. It is glowing, in colors I have never seen. The fire in her eyes is consuming the tent, glowing as it eats away at our home.

She set me free.

Constellations

They call me the Woodwose.

But they know that I am the forest; I am the canopies and the wind and the soil underneath. I have been, ever since I inhabited its heart long ago, and settled in another still, in the heart of the Great Tree.

“I have come,” she says in a voice far too large for her frame, “to purge you, fiend!”

To that I sigh, and pay no thought to the years that the exhale holds. I have heard it a thousand times, from kings and knights and furious farmers alike. I’ve made their water and their wealth mine, and so have I their harvest and lands.

Their yield is poor this year. Not the fault of rainfall or the sun, but mine. I grow more able to bring suffering upon them, season by season.

Her father owns a nearby land, she says. Her anger is understandable, but she’s a fragile thing. A girl in her homespun skirts and flimsy limbs, with golden hair curiously chopped to her nape. Strange things they are, humans, that a fortnight of starvation could kill them, and yet they defy, and yet they dare.

She comes with a spade, and it becomes clear that no sorcery could flow from those fingertips. She fails on the first day, and she fails on the second. On the third, I ask why, thinking that it’s a redundant thing; because she’s a farmer’s daughter, and I make their crops suffer.

“To be granted knighthood.”

And my belief in the limits of foolishness disappears. It wasn’t a very strong belief to begin with, not with her futile efforts at my sides, digging at roots that recover in instants.

Being a farmer’s daughter isn’t completely irrelevant, I learn on the fourth day, because her mother died. They couldn’t provide what she’d needed; I’d taken their yield. On the fifth, she cries and I can’t distinguish tears from the sweat running down her cheeks, and it’s the bitter, furious kind because she’s miserable and a little broken. On the sixth day, she learns that I forgot the sight of the sky; and on the seventh, I learn that she can chart it.

Days pass, and she brings apples with her sometimes. When she allows herself to rest, she braids flowers into crowns. It grows, that hair, but so do my roots, back into the dirt where they belong. Soon I learn her name, and Constance watches as her efforts become vain.

She listens when I scoff and tell the tales of her predecessors. Sometimes she laughs too, at the knight who promised the heart of the tree but fled when it talked, and the old king who led his men to where the horses wouldn’t follow, and tripped into the river while he hailed his call.

When I ask if she’s searching for my weakness in their stories, “Perhaps I am,” she cheekily says. But no, and although I am incapable of emotions beyond sins, no tenderness to be offered to humans, I can see it; that earnestness in eyes that should be set on horizons.

“Find my virtues,” I tell her after months she spends visiting, the secret of uprooting the heart of the woods. Seven, scattered across lands and seas far beyond her little village. It intrigues her, and she asks where, not how. And it is a little charming how willful the weaker beings can sometimes be. At least she, whose eyes bear something I can’t read, when she’s told in which scorching desert my Patience I’d left, and in the depth of which sea my Honesty dwells, and how high the mountain that holds my Humility is.

Then they call for her and she heeds. She leaves on a ship, and the wind brings back news of her when he can. She disembarks, and she finds her first companion, a small monkey, on a strange land I must have journeyed during my old life. It wasn’t so robust then.

She spends the year away, guided by voices and the stars. My virtues are gently awakened throughout, but I can’t possess them yet. She is captured and put to suffering for stealing my Sincerity from a land that honored it far beyond its worth, then she escapes unaided. The wind tells me she finds another companion, a boy, and is taught the way of the sword. Beasts become less frightening, and her sobs more courageous and sparse.

Her laughter comes in abundance, and the freckles on the bridge of her nose become more defined by the sun. She struggles still, against mountains of snow and ice and furious skies. But Constance grows and flourishes and takes the world by a storm.

I hear her curiosity finds ways to discover me, and seas away my secrets unravel in old myths and tales of havoc. She knows that I once had the freedom she seeks, and that I exploited it. I raged and plundered; I remorselessly sinned until that heart was spoiled beyond the capacity of a body to contain.

I begin losing myself, perhaps as she finds me elsewhere. I grow weaker in the entirety of my existence. Their crops prosper and her father writes and sends birds with joy. It appears that it soon would be gone, my vision, but it doesn’t shake me, because the wind sometimes carries her voice, but never the sight of her.

She’s carrying trinkets in the palms of her hands when she returns. Seven of them; little, old things that gleam even in the dead of the night, even to eyes that could see nothing else. I’ve become too weak for the year she spent away to feel as insignificant as it should.

She cries again, and it’s a headache how much she does. “Why have you withered away,” she says, her voice barely wrapped around a sob. “We had an agreement, I was meant to purge you.”

I lie and tell her that it was because she found my virtues that I began dying, but she only weeps harder. “But I have many stories to tell,” she says, and a number of them are about me; small, lost pieces of a past. “You’re not meant to just die yet.”

But I am; because finding my virtues wouldn’t take me, but my own desire to leave would. To leave the tree that took me in when the rest of the world refused is how I am made to die.

She tells her tales as I disintegrate. The bark that kept me for centuries falls apart in the circle of her arms, and the roots that held me dissolved beneath her feet. “Stop crying, you fool,” I say, and it’s met by a mess of small laughs and sobs and persevering stories.

“You never told me your Kindness was swallowed by a Kraken. That took a whole crew of pirates to retrieve, and another band of outlaws, too. And a massive carnivorous flower was guarding your Tolerance! I almost decided you could live without it at that sight.”

The Tree vanishes along with all the sorcery that rooted the forest. I feel it in me that it remains behind unchanged, and it could recover and grow without my notoriety keeping it in place. I have lived a burden, and remorse finds its way into me unprompted by the waiting virtues now scattered around her. Her stories are rushed and desperate, and so are her breaths. She breaks a little farther when my past as a human tumbles down her lips. She tells me that she knows and she says it again, that she knows and she knows, and she never says what it is. But it resonates in my body, every piece of the past she unraveled and willfully discovered, that left me with only envy and wrath. I feel it in the form that I undertook, and whether I am a beast or the human I’d once been I don’t know. But I am weaker than I’ve ever been, and even Pride can’t hold me upright against it. My head is cradled in her lap, on the harsh fabric of her breeches. And my eyes are gone, but she shifts me so they’re looking up. Constance pours Benevolence on them, and, “Open your eyes,” she says, “Look at the sky, Woodwose, isn’t it beautiful?”

My sky is green-eyed and freckled.

“That, she is,” I say, slipping away under her tears, “That she is.”


Notes

Constellations Part 2: The Heroine

The hands that had spread maps before me and dotted them like the night sky now cradled my face, rough and dry and wearing away by age. They held worry and an odd form of pride when too little time was between us and the beginning of my journey.

I have yet to find anything as comforting as the warmth of my father’s hands that night.

He pressed his lips to my brow, and his frame was still as large as it’d been, refusing to bend down to age just yet. He was readily graying, though, and I’d given him grief for it. His eyes crinkled at the sides, lines much deeper than they were many springs ago. I thought it was clear why age had suddenly shown its weight on him. It had started once Mother got sick.

What took her was acute. It spared us no time to come to terms with any of it. A fever, short and sharp and the most horrifying thing I’d seen. Then she passed, taking along the light of her laughter from the life of my father and my own.

The yield had been especially poor then, barely enough to feed us. But the urgency of her illness brought surgeons in nonetheless, as many of them as it could. The cure could’ve been a few villages away, but she was too weak, and the limits of humans caught in a drought glared, ugly and desperate.

They blamed the crisis on the Woodwose, but I know the skies, their force too restless, too great, to be controlled by a being. The Woodwose’s roots exploited the richness of our lands, and that, compared to the unbound power of the sky, is a force that people perhaps can stand against.

But my journey was not inspired by revenge; that was that notion that pushed me to dig out his roots. There was the knighthood that I sought, the voice that it all held, one loud enough for the villagers threatened by hunger and illnesses and too much grief.

‘Not revenge,’  I had repeated time and time again, hoping that it would become the truth.

“You really are your mother’s daughter.”

Suddenly, I was brought back to the present, but as young as I had been when the life my father spent laughing under the sun hadn’t etched his lines as deep, back when my mother would bake apples while she answered all my questions, one from every corner of the world.

Who rules the East, Mommy? And the Southern Sea? Where are all the mermaids? Are they pretty?

Until my questions reached the sky, and right until then, she would answer like she’d seen it all.

What’s the brightest star in the sky called, Mommy?

Then Mother would smile and place her hand on my head. “Isn’t that question more suited for Daddy? You know no one knows the skies like he does.” He’d taught me how to chart the stars because I feared the dark.

“Would you grow up like Mommy, Constance? Or will you turn out land-bound like Daddy?

Or better yet, you’d grow your own self. I’m sure of it.”

I’d missed her, so much that it felt like something broke in half inside me, and I was faced with another parting still. The tightness in my throat ached fiercely. I’d promised myself that I wouldn’t, but the sob tore despite it all, and before I knew it, I was a child again, contained in the protection of my father’s arms. My hands grabbed fistfuls of the back of his clothes, desperate, broken things.

I was frightened out of my wits, the world was so large beyond our village, but not once did I doubt my desire to go, to see it and brave its seas. I caught my next sigh and swallowed it, out of the stubborn determination to ready myself for the journey if nothing else.

But what he said about my resemblance to Mother was blurred and muffled by my tears. I didn’t understand any of it then. I couldn’t, until many seas later.